Local News

Edgecombe County Loses Bid For Gatorade Plant, 250 Potential Jobs

Posted May 20, 2005 4:57 a.m. EDT

— A county with one of North Carolina's highest unemployment rates had hoped a big-name company would energize its economy.

Edgecombe County leaders found out this week that a $140 million Gatorade bottling and distribution plant they pursued for nearly a year, found another home.

"Our hopes and dreams were that we'd be standing here with an announcement with Gatorade, however, that didn't work out," said Oppie Morgan of Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

Company officials made several trips to check out the 152-acre lot just outside of Rocky Mount. Local leaders said they believe the sports drink company chose a site in Virginia over North Carolina to save transportation costs.

"Obviously, it's a big disappointment," said County Commissioner Chair Charlie Harrell.

Harrell said the county went after the plant with big incentives because of what Gatorade would have poured back into Edgecombe.

"This would have been about $1 million a year in additional taxes for the county," Harrell said.

It would also have meant 250 more jobs for a county with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Carolinas Gateway Partnership helped bring several new plants to the area in the last five years, including QVC, but it is not enough.

"We've had some success, but we've lost more jobs than we brought back in," Harrell said.

County and economic leaders believe existing infrastructure and a rail line will attract another big company to the site. They believe the recent attention from Gatorade will help.

"You just go get the next one," Morgan said. "You just don't give up."

Economic developers said they are already chasing some new leads.

For the first time since April 2004, North Carolina's unemployment rate was higher than the national average.

The state's rate climbed to 5.3 percent in April, up from 5.2 percent in March.

North Carolina also lost 1,000 manufacturing jobs, but gained more than 13,000 non-farming jobs during the month.